The fundamental requirement of adequate sleep duration and sleep quality for maintaining good health continues to be highlighted in a steady stream of compelling science.
It is well-established that chronic sleep loss is strongly associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, and substance abuse – and a novel report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently uncovered a relationship between poor sleep and cancer.
In a follow-up evaluation of the impact physical activity had on cancer incidence in over 5,000 women, NCI researchers found that study subjects who were in the upper half for weekly physical activity who slept less than 7 hours nightly had a 47% higher cancer risk than their counterparts who got more sleep.
Although poor sleep can impact cancer risk through a number of obvious mechanisms, scientists speculate that its drain on the immune system (your body’s anti-cancer and anti-infection system) is likely the most significant factor. A stunning (headline news) report from the January issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine hammered home how essential sleep is for optimal immune function.
In a nutshell – study subjects who slept less than 7 hours a night were almost 3 times more likely to catch a cold than those who slumbered for eight hours or more. Perhaps even more striking, study subjects with poorer sleep efficiency, 92% or less, were 5.5 times more likely to get sick! (Sleep efficiency is the percentage of time spent in bed actually sleeping.)
Based on all of the science I have reviewed, the 2 most powerful things you can do to maintain robust immunity are getting optimal sleep and getting regular (daily) physical activity. Incidentally, I firmly believe that getting optimal sleep is impossible without a certain threshold level of daily physical activity.
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